Say Something Good About Detroit: Detroit's Only but Thriving Synagogue
From the Huffington Post)
In recent years, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue has served as the focal point of a resurgent Jewish community. Not long ago Detroit's last free-standing synagogue was on the verge of shutting down.
"The only thing that was happening in the building four to five years ago was Saturday morning services that could barely get a minyan [religious quorum] there," Leor Barak, president of Isaac Agree's board of directors, said. "Now look at us ... We have hundreds of people going through our doors every day. We're a hub for Jewish life in Detroit." (This building is in downtown Detroit, an area where there are very few Jews. However, many younger people are trying hard to revitalize the city by living there).
Isaac Agree, which belongs to the conservative tradition of Judaism, was founded in 1921 -- a time when Detroit was home to a large, vibrant Jewish population. As the Jewish population migrated from the city, however, the synagogue's membership diminished. By 2008, the institution's congregation had dwindled to a handful of older, largely suburban members.
The recent transformation has been dramatic. The congregation now has 250 member units -- a figure that includes both individuals and families -- and its Friday evening and Saturday morning services regularly draw around 40 people. In addition, Isaac Agree now hosts regular Thursday morning services, Torah studies, Hebrew lessons and a wide array of other programming.
What led to this resurgence? Barak, the board's 32-year-old president, credits his predecessor Marty Herman with securing a $50,000 matching grant from the Kosins Family Foundation in 2006.
But it was an influx of young people like him that brought renewed vitality to the congregation.
Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of two print novels CONCRETE ANGEL (2015) and SHOT IN DETROIT (2016)(Polis Books). CONCRETE ANGEL was nominated for an Anthony and Macavity Award in 2016. SHOT IN DETROIT was nominated for an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2017. A collection of her stories I BRING SORROW AND OTHER STORIES OF TRANSGRESSION will appear in 2018.